Value of needle exchanges accepted by U.S. government

The science has been clear on this for quite some time: needle exchange programs save lives, reduce the spread of HIV, and don’t cause any increase in drug use. It’s a real no-brainer, and it’s been bizarre that it’s taken the U.S. government so long to get on board, but they finally are.

White House moves to fund needle exchanges as drug treatment

The Obama administration has designated intravenous needle exchanges as a drug treatment program, allowing federal money set aside to treat addictions to be used to distribute syringes to narcotics users. […]

The new position, determined by the surgeon general, is that the states can receive federal funding for programs that hand out the syringes as a treatment. […]

U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Regina M. Benjamin told The Washington Examiner that needle exchange programs can serve as a gateway to treatment for drug addiction, HIV and other diseases.

“This determination, based on years of scientific research, will permit states and territories to use Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant funds for what had formerly been termed ‘needle exchange,’ ” Benjamin said.

Well that’s pretty clear. And uncontroversial. After all, who would object to a program that saves lives, doesn’t increase drug use and helps move hard core addicts to treatment?


“It doesn’t pass any serious test of rationality,” said John P. Walters, the former drug czar under President George W. Bush. “It’s like the surgeon general deciding that handing out lighters is a good way to help people to stop smoking. It’s at least that absurd, and the consequences are even greater given the risks involved in IV drug use.”

The risks involved in IV drug use are precisely why this program is so important. And if cigarette lighters on the street were infected with the ebola virus, then yes, it would make sense health-wise to hand out lighters to smokers.

But Dr. Scott Teitelbaum, director of the University of Florida-run Florida Recovery Center, said, “Putting a needle in your arm is not recovery.” Teitelbaum said he opposed taking money from legitimate treatment programs to pay for needle exchange.

Translation: “I resent that you might take federal money away from me to fund something that actually works.”

Dr. Robert L. DuPont, president of the Institute for Behavior and Health in Rockville, said it’s possible that addicts will seek treatment after getting clean syringes, but there are more cost-effective ways of getting drug users to seek treatment.

“If someone proposed giving free drinks to treat alcoholism, they’d be laughed out of the building,” DuPont said. “But in the drug world, that’s considered good science.”

A more effective way is to spend the money to go into the shelters and communities hit hard by addictions and bring the addicts into treatment, said DuPont and other drug treatment experts.

Yeah, we can follow the Thailand example. Rounding up addicts into forced treatment? Really? That’s your solution? Are there perhaps some good reasons why that isn’t being done now? Like, oh, I don’t know, the U.S. Constitution?

Critics say the new policy is a step toward European-style treatment where the government provides the drugs and a clean room to inject them.

Oh, you mean the European programs where they’ve demonstrated an 88% reduction in crime, improved health, and a dramatic raising of the average age of addicts (because of addicts living longer and fewer young initiates)?

Yeah, we sure wouldn’t want anything like that to interfere with the jollies of our sadomoralists.

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33 Responses to Value of needle exchanges accepted by U.S. government

  1. allan420 says:

    and a hat tip heavenwards to our friend Beth…

    Mr Obama’s hand is in this… at least I like to think it is and it’s good to see.

  2. Duncan20903 says:

    The New England Journal of Medicine disagrees with the premise that you don’t treat heroin addiction with heroin.

    Diacetylmorphine versus Methadone for the Treatment of Opioid Addiction


    Injectable diacetylmorphine was more effective than oral methadone. Because of a risk of overdoses and seizures, diacetylmorphine maintenance therapy should be delivered in settings where prompt medical intervention is available. ( number, NCT00175357.)

    Then there’s the hypocrisy of using nicotine to treat nicotine addiction, FDA approved and over the counter. Oh man those patches can get you high.

  3. This is not my America says:

    Unreal! You can hits these idiots like Walters in the head with a brick and he will deny it was a brick…even if their own government tells them its a brick.

    This is the reason cannabis is still illegal…they say legalization wont take the profit out of it for cartels and dealers.

    Idiots like this should be put away, unfortunately they live here in the US where they have a right to be idiots…and they do it on our time, our dime and in our lives.

  4. darkcycle says:

    One of the psychological effects of addiction is a constant fear of being cut off from your supply of your drug of addiction. Alcoholics who can afford to will often hoard bottles of booze, and hide them everwhere. One of the results of this in heroine addicts is the addict spends so much of his/her functional, non-stoned time in a quest for more of the drug that the time to think about quitting just isn’t there. It is hard to simultaneously hold the idea that you intend to quit while also holding the idea that you need more at any cost in one’s head at the same time. They’re mutually exclusive. The upshot of this is that it’s when addicts have acess to a stable, safe supply that they’re more likely not only to think about quitting, but take needed action. This is a somewhat anectdotal observation, but it fits with the research on this subject nicely.
    If you want an addict to stop their obsessive, circular, addict behavior, one of the ways to effect this would be to remove a key component of the cycle. It’s like removong a leg from a three legged stool, the stool will not stand on it’s own any longer. There are some addicts, clearly, for whom quitting is not an option. At least in those cases, we wouldn’t have to cough up as a society for expensive retro-viral drugs. But if addicts were freed of the need to spend so much of thier time obtaining their next fix, I have little doubt that a good many of them would begin to use this time to find a way out.

  5. Duncan20903 says:

    Is there anything about substances on the naughty list that isn’t counterintuitive? Could we cure insanity with PCP?

  6. darkcycle says:

    John Walters really does believe that it’s a war. And in war, anything you can do to bring hardship and suffering to your enemy is furthering your cause. It really is that simple (to him, that is, stupid, reactionary, boorish and morally superior John Walters).

    • allan420 says:

      Yeah… old John is a true ardent believer. Gil oth is just the guy fillin’ the role, he doesn’t care. But John… he’s a prohibition fundamentalist evangelical.

      Beth Wehrman, 1952 – 2008, A Life Well Lived

      Beth is one of my heroes. She lobbied candidate Obama and for candidate Obama… I like to think this move by the White House stems from Beth’s activism. She passed away only a few weeks before the election.

      I “met” Beth online, when she was being harangued by the Peoria Star and several of us began responding with letters (I think they published one of the many), defending our friend, the “needle lady.”. Beth newshawked for MAP and was a MAP editor (along with everything else she did in her very full life). And she was a walked-with-her-head-held-high fighter/activist.

      US IA: Spirit of Marycrest Award Goes to AIDS Activist

  7. darkcycle says:

    It’s intuitive if you focus on the BEHAVIOR, and not the “drug”. Drug addiction is a behavior set. It occurs anywhere there is strong intermittent reinforcement of behaviors. Gambling, sex, reading, computer gaming, compulsive overeating, workaholism, these are just a few of the non-drug behaviors subject to the addiction cycle. As a psychologist the idea of blaming “drugs” for a human behavior that is all pervasive in every aspect of human existance is beyond absurd. It’s a cruel hoax, an unfunny joke, an affront to basic intelligence, and deeply, deeply disturbing. It’s almost it’s own pathology.

  8. darkcycle says:

    Yes, it CAN extend to running amok in the comments sections of blog sites. Sorry, Dun.

  9. J. H. says:

    “If someone proposed giving free drinks to treat alcoholism, they’d be laughed out of the building,” DuPont said. “But in the drug world, that’s considered good science.”

    I’m not sure of the validity of this statement, I don’t think many people agree that giving alcohol to alcoholics is a good idea. Needle exchange surrounds a completely different drug issue. If the preferred method of consuming alcohol was through intravenous injection then the same theory would apply; because heroin addicts are addicted greatly to the method of administration, IV injection, they will nearly always inject the drug and thus put themselves at the risk of disease. There is no inherent transmissible danger in consuming alcohol, since it is nearly always consumed orally.

    Heroin maintenance is a much different concept than “giving alcohol to alcoholics” as well. Alcohol is cheap and freely available on the open market. Heroin on the other hand, is frequently prone adulteration and only available on the black market. That is why herion maintenance is so successful, because addicts have access to a safer herion than is available on the streets.

    All drugs are different, and all people are different, and thus treatment of various addictions must be handled on an individual basis with the availability of wide variety of treatment options. LSD and ibogaine have been proven to have great results in treating various addictions, however no drug affects every person in the same manner. Sometimes quitting an addiction is just not a possibility.

    It’s obvious that our drug treatment programs in this country are failing pretty miserably. Despite successes in Europe, Americans in general just seem to write off foreign policies as radical, ridiculous, and immoral. It’s 2011 now, American’s need to realize that morality cannot be legislated. One group of people trying to control another will NEVER work. Not with drugs, not with abortion, not with prostitution, not with any moral issue. That’s why this step in the right direction by the Obama administration is extremely satisfying. I hope all government officials will come to this realization with time.

  10. ezrydn says:

    @JH et al: The comment about giving free drinks to alcoholics is really off topic as the needle exchange would be the same as the bar offering 2 free empty glasses if you buy a drink. Or soap boxes that used to give free towels. The soap people didn’t supply the “dirt!” The speaker tried to pull a fast on on the audience with that one.

  11. vicky vampire says:

    Ok Pres. Obama,nEEDLE EXCHANGE THATS WONDERFUL NOW, When will you move to reschedule Cannabis,pot, Marijuana, come on he seems to be moving more on gay stuff everyday check the news lately on that front? hey gays smoke Cannabis too.Pres OBAMA.!!!

  12. Voltear says:

    As Allan420 wrote, this is a day to remember Beth Wehrman. I got to know Beth at the Longbeach DPA conference and meeting Beth was probably the highlight, for me, of attending. We lost a lot when we lost Beth. She was the real article. She risked jaii constantly to help the IDU’s in her area and beyond. She spent her own money doing it too. She sought the users out. She brought the fits to them, when needed – as it often was. And all through this she had a Neanderthal sheriff trying to bust her again.
    Beth was genuinely interested in people. Very quickly I felt like I’d known her all my life.
    She must’ve gotten to know Obama the same way. Photos of her greeting him on the plane show an easy familiarity. He had to be thinking of her when he did this. This is a good development to balance the crazy news from Thailand.

  13. darkcycle says:

    Yes. Thank you Beth W. This is in part due to you.

  14. Servetus says:

    So what’s it been, three decades since IV needles were made unobtainable across the counter without a prescription? Thirty years of denial before implementing an obvious solution to a health problem that’s played a significant part in the AIDS pandemic, killing 25-million people so far—are we to expect this kind of conduct in the future as societies become more complex, and quick solutions are needed just to keep up with a continuing series of new problems?

    Whoever and whatever creates moral bottlenecks and battle lines discouraging and delaying the implementation of valid solutions to life threatening scenarios embodies nothing less than a clear and present threat to all of humanity. It is a threat that far exceeds the alleged problems of various drug users, and in the case of a pandemic, it has a higher body count.

    The reasons for this kind of behavior on the part of politicians and jurists must be investigated thoroughly and exposed publicly. The institutional support that gave needle exchange ineptitude its legal priority must be isolated, demolished, its rubble crushed and removed to secret locations, with its destructors swearing an oath not to discuss its whereabouts.

  15. Paul says:


    Is the program really necessary? Aren’t needles legal to buy and pretty cheap?

    • Pete says:

      In some areas, yes. Although in Texas and some other locations any kind of needle exchange program, even if not funded by the government, is illegal (hopefully that will change this year).

      I think the point of this particular program is not so much to put new government money into needle exchange, but rather to allow a comprehensive treatment program (which is receiving federal money) to include needle exchange (and the resulting positive developed relationship with the drug user).

  16. DdC says:

    John P. Walters doesn’t pass any serious test of rationality.

    Robert DuPont Urine Testing Company

    Sterile Syringes Prevent Spreading Disease… Duh!

  17. Duncan20903 says:


    Is the program really necessary? Aren’t needles legal to buy and pretty cheap?

    Let me take a wild guess…you’ve never been a degenerate addict, am I correct? How cheap do needles have to be before a degenerate addict will find their cost a priority over another hit of his drug of choice? Yeah, you got it, free. The primary, most significant reason in my sick mind in 1989 when I left the crack behind was because I was sick and tired of running on empty. Literally, it was because I was constantly ready to run out of gas in my car. To this day I have a thing about keeping that particular needle pointing to F. Now why was my car almost always on E? Because a buck and a half for a gallon of gas was a buck and a half closer to $20 for the next rock.

    But all this stuff is moot. It seems the government has finally succeeded in curing addiction! If a few commercials can lower pot use, then constant play of these commercials on TV will eliminate cannabis use. Of course we all know that if people never smoke merry wanna the gateway drug they’ll never try anything harder, so cutting off merry wanna use nips addiction in the bud! Nip it in the bud Andy, nip it in the bud.

  18. Bailey says:

    Actually, the offering drinks to alcoholics was discussed on here just a few months ago.

    I’d personally like to know more about this phenomena because I think it could stand to revolutionize the way we consider treatment. The notion that abstinence is always the best first option is at the heart of the sadomoralist agenda. Convince people that they’re helpless to the drink/pill/needle, and it becomes a handy justification to themselves and anyone looking to further that message, and make a profit on the way.

  19. DdC says:

    Crackheads don’t shoot dope bycracker.
    Crack has no redeeming value except it’s cheap.
    Opiates are status quo but crack?
    For Wannabe moneysluts same as booze.
    Plastic for self imposed slaves.

    The entire point is clean needles reduce disease transmission.

    Ayahuasca and Ibogaine have had results mind shifting out of addiction.

    I trust the X chromosome theory that 10% have a higher addiction level than the average 90%. Or just more dependent, obedient and weaker. I’ve only seen crack in trailor trash drunks and black quarters down south. Po folk suckered into it. Speed by the working class trailer trash and east siders using it for overtime and writers for ideas. Besides the Pharmo crank sold legally for diets, kids, mothers lil helpers and the Air Force or bootlegged to truckers, students and avoiding booze intoxication. But crack? No value. Like PCP or any white powder sold for moneysluts as a dangerous slaver tool.


    Shock the Junkie: Ibogaine is the Anti-Drug of the Moment

    Ayahuasca to Treat/Cure Addiction?

    Ayahuasca Tourism in South America

  20. Duncan20903 says:

    Oh, I forgot to mention that one of my loved ones recently got diagnosed with hepatitis because of IV drug use. Thanks a load Messrs. Walters and DuPont, you guys are doing a heckuva job, a heckuva job. Now I’ve got to carve out some time and drive over there, and make sure he knows how to bleach a needle for the next time he comes down with a bad case of the fukkits. Hepatititis is bad enough, no need to add HIV. So many idiots think that it would be better to hang a sword of Damocles over his head. Anyone who’s ever suffered a case of the fukkits knows that’s an absolutely ludicrous position. The poor man’s brother dropped dead at age 21 and he blames himself. No drugs on the naughty list detected in the brother’s autopsy either. I don’t know if they ever did figure out the COD. Yes, sometimes 21 year old men just drop dead for no apparent reason.

    (PS, anyone that thinks that crack is cheap has never smoked crack, and is a victim of Know Nothing prohibitionist propaganda. Mad Dog 20/20 is cheap. Crack is just ‘cheaper’ than powder cocaine.)

    • DdC says:

      $5 crack whores dunkem. That’s cheap to most of us with jobs. Cheap compared to any hard drug. Even booze if its the rush your after. I tried one toke of a crack pipe and found it to be disgusting. Like I said, no redeeming value. Garbage. Those who were addicted I found mostly to be white trash rednecks and blacks with no or little knowledge of drugs. The same ones who don’t smoke Ganja and prefer Old Milwaukee or ripple. You wear your addiction like a badge of honor. Or pleading for a purple heart. Forgetaboutit. Junkies have no redeeming value, crackheads are zombies with no soul. btw being a junkie does not make one an expert on addiction or drugs. I think that’s obvious by your posts. Typical junkie getting semi clean, falling in love with rehabilitation. Still hard hearted idiots, only now trying to convert the world into sobriety. Converts make the most overzealous drug worriers, same as the religious. Crackheads have no honor.

      That’s just an observation. I realize I have more sense than to ever smoke crack or let myself get addicted to it. Because of a Vietnam vet missing a vein, I escaped the heroin craze of the early 70’s. Speed has always been a moneyslut drug I had no urge to explore more than an occasional buzzing on white crosses with reefer and Boones Farm. Cocaine is as plastic as designer drugs. LSD has come a long way since orange sunshine barrels. It took me 7 hits to get a buzz in the late 80’s, at a dead show. Nice and pure and stoney. But none since then. I prefer shrooms or peyote over white powder acid. Now its just Ganja and an occassional home brew every blue moon.

      Don’t be so proud of your crackheadness dunk. Its a dirty addiction. Dude, not many junkies will carry bleech or think about spreading diseases to non users. They just think about the dope. So needle exchanges not only provides them with sterile equipment. It provides them a place to make contacts with a door to kicking if they choose. Better than nothing. Ours has been in operation since the 90’s. The cops finally got the message and leave them alone. HIV and Hep are being dealt with, unlike when republicans try to run things. I’m proud of my kids, not my recreational choices. They are what they are and junkie war stories never fix the problems. So blow it out your ass junkie. You don’t have to be a weatherman to see which way the wind blows.

      • Voltear says:

        Well said! I doubt whether Messrs. Anslinger, Bennet, Walters, Gates, or Goebbels could have said it better!

      • DdC says:

        I doubt it too Volt. They read memo’s for the most part.
        Now how to cash in on it like they did?
        hummm… will anyone ever get the balls to ask a simple question about what they don’t understand? It’s fine to disagree. Censored school books, TV and DARE, I can’t imagine how anyone fed so much hogwash could possibly see reality. I understand your dilemma Volt.

        Junkies are a tool dude. Slaves to a manufactured substance made for profit. Heroin is a much faster and effective pain killer than morphine. But like Ganja, it may be euphoric. The church says we can’t have our dying acting like they’re feeling good. What would the message be to the children? Snitches setting up RxGanja users like Alkies getting off for drunk driving setting up Kubby. Man made substances dude. Like the cardboard nutrition and fossil fools. You ain’t in Kansas Dorothy. Troll spurting doesn’t bring comprehension.

        They show me someone hiding in the bushes throwing rocks then running away squealing like a piglet. Like Ernest T Bass. What is it political correctness? Junkie not in vogue? You prefer Crack Enthusiasts? It’s natural entheogen substances provided for us the same as natural food and fuel and clothing. Produced by Americans in the USA verses White Powders and OPECers that harm people and have deadly side effects. Thats just the way it is. All Pharmaceuticals. Meant to treat, not cure or prevent. Doubt if Education Secretary/Drug Czar slot machine virtuosic Bennett ever said what I say. I’ve said its totally and unnecessarily a direct result of the drug war. For 40 years I’ve said it. So that pretty much dismisses your insult about the DEAth Mongers. But you keep at it, someday who knows.

        Al Capone and Watergate were red herrings to divert the countries attention from the Fascist acts of eliminating competition. Booze/Ethanol or Ganja//Hemp.

  21. Rory says:

    “It’s like the surgeon general deciding that handing out lighters is a good way to help people to stop smoking.”

    No John, it really isnt.
    Cos lighters are legal to produce, supply and possess. Cigarette smokers dont get arrested for owning lighters do they?

    If you want to reduce death and disease – needle exchanges are a small step in the right direction

    Rory, Scotland (land of Trainspotting), Western Europe (land of the enlightenment)
    to you john Walters, USA (a country I greatly admire – apart from its insane drug war)

  22. ezrydn says:

    I have one phobia that I’m totally grateful for. It has kept me out of trouble for many, many years.

    I’m needle phobic!

    You put the smallest one in me and it still feels to me like you’re pushing a #2 pencil into my arm. Drs and nurses laugh at me but on my side of the fence, it sure isn’t funny.

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